Rebecca Brewster, president and COO, ATRI

SAN DIEGO –Soaring diesel prices displaced the driver shortage after five years in the top spot in the American Transportation Research Institute’s 18th annual Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry.

“It certainly brings attention to it when it overtakes something [like driver shortage],” Rebecca Brewster, ATRI president and COO, told FreightWaves.

The independent research group that works closely with the American Trucking Associations  released its 18th annual survey Saturday during the ATA’s Management Conference and Exhibition.

Truck parking showed up No. 10 on the motor carrier’s side and No. 1 on the driver’s list. It finished third overall, up from fifth in 2021. The issue of where drivers stop to rest has finished no lower than sixth since 2013.

‘Tremendous issue for their driver workforce’

“I think this is an acknowledgement this year that the motor carriers see what a tremendous issue this is for their driver workforce because it has so many tentacles,” Brewster said. “You see it show up in our ability to recruit drivers, to retain drivers, to bring more women into the profession.

“When you think about all the attention on the truck parking issue from the U.S. DOT [Department of Transportation], from the Biden administration, and every time you see it written about, it references that drivers have identified this as their top concern,” she said.

Florida and Tennessee recently won $37.6 million in competitive grants from the DOT for trucking parking projects in their states. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is keenly aware of the issue as well, Robyn Hutcheson, FMCSA administrator, told a gathering of ATA conference attendees Saturday.

Robyn Hutcheson, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration administrator, (center) speaks with attendees at the American Trucking Association’s Management Conference and Exhibition on Saturday, Oct.22, 2022 (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

“We’re working very closely with the Federal Highway Administration,” which recently published an 80-page Truck Parking Development Handbook. 

“We have a very clear direction to prioritize this,” Hutcheson said. “For our part, Jack VanSteenburg, our executive director, has communicated with every division administrator to use this guide.”

In addition to diesel prices and truck parking, carriers and drivers both listed driver detention while waiting to pick up or drop off a load, and the economy, as issues on which they agreed.

Driver shortage is still top motor carrier concern

Carriers continued to rank the driver shortage, estimated by the American Trucking Associations at 80,000, as the top issue. Drivers ranked the lack of parking as their top issue.

The rest of the ATRI Top 10 were:

4. Driver compensation

5. Economy

6. Driver detention/delay

7. Driver retention

8. CSA [Compliance, Safety, Accountability]

9. Speed limiters 

10. Lawsuit abuse reform

Speed limiters make initial appearance

Speed limiters, an FMCSA regulatory priority in 2023, cracked the Top 10 for the first time.

The FMCSA is issuing a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking as a follow-up on a speed-limiter rulemaking issued jointly by FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in September 2016. It will decide by June 30 whether additional regulations should be issued concerning commercial truck manufacturer requirements. 

Insurance costs and liability landed in the No. 11-13 emerging issues section, missing the Top 10 by four points.

“We give every issue an industry concern index and last year when driver shortage was No.1, every other issue sort of paled in the industry concern index. These are all very close across the Top 10,” Brewster said.

Each respondent was asked to list three issues from among a list of 28 and suggest ways to solve the problem.

For the first time, more company and independent drivers responded than motor carriers. The research group added drivers as a separate group in 2016. The 4,200 respondents across the industry was a record number of respondents.

What are FMCSA’s upcoming proposed rules?

Robyn Hutcheson discusses priorities for FMCSA

ATRI: A trucker who crashes once is at high risk for another

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.